Cooler weather is starting to head our way and now is the time to start thinking about winterizing your outdoor composting worms.
Our red wigglers are a hearty breed. They are fairly tolerant of colder temperatures, but they have their limits. Super Reds (European Night Crawlers) are a bit more cold hardy. If you live in an area of the country that gets cool in the winter, read these tips for protecting your worm friends:
- Be ready before the temperature drops below 57 degrees Fahrenheit. At 57 degrees, worms start to feel the cold. Decide in advance what you are going to do because you may need some materials (read on).
- Use a composter thermometer. If the bin gets too hot or too cold, you can take action before things go awry.
- Don’t depend on natural heat. Worms will seek out warm spots in the composter. The process of decomposition generates some heat, but you can’t depend on this through a cold winter. So you should:
- Insulate. Lay hay bales around the composter. Bed down the composter with hay, straw or cow manure for insulation. Or you can put wet newspaper in the bedding, and add dry newspaper on top of that.
- Move the composter to shelter. If your composter is portable, we recommend you move it into a garage or basement.
- Feed pre-chewed food. The worms slow down in the cold. Make your worms’ job easier by providing smaller amounts of scraps at a time. Cut the food scraps into small pieces, or blend them in a food processor.
- Partially bury your plastic bin. You can bury the bottom half of your bin in the ground to keep in the heat. (Non-plastic bins let in too much moisture.)
- Keep the lid on and don’t open it more than necessary.
If your worms become too chilly, don’t panic. They might rebound when the weather warms up. They tend to lay eggs before they die. These eggs survive being frozen solid for up to one year! However, composting will slow down and you may need to order more worms in the spring.
Don’t want to venture out to the compost bin in the winter? In our next email, we will explain how to move your worms into an indoor Worm Factory composter for convenience and warmth.